Quality over quantity?

One minimalist maxim is idea of buying “quality over quantity.” The idea of saving up for one really good thing rather than lots of cheapie versions of that same thing, totally rang true to me when I started curbing my consumerist habits.

Now after nearly five years of being a more conscientious shopper, I still agree with the idea, but I’ve changed my expectations a bit. Let me explain:

When I first heard the idea of buying less, but buying better, I had visions of myself wisely shaking my head “no” to every overpriced but cheaply made Urban Outfitters or F21 purse. Instead, I would magically save my money and be blessed with the ability to purchase a Celine bag — or at least a classic, well-made and hand-made leather carry-all that would last me for years, maybe even be passed on to future generations.

But just because I love the idea of buying better (and knowing the origin of a purchase) doesn’t mean I now can afford an expensive bag of my dreams.

A large part of this is due to my own priorities: I much prefer to save up to travel or spend more time with my far flung family than use thousands on a bag. But it’s also partly to do with coming to terms with what kind of consumer I was and am.

Even if in the future I have much more disposable income, I think I will still have a problem with spending thousands of dollars on one item (even if it’s “timeless” and will “last forever”). Apart from indulging in really expensive smells (see soap photo at top of post or my bottle of Le Labo perfume tucked in my drawer), buying things isn’t my favorite way of spending my hard-earned cash.

I know some people love bags and love shoes, and to them, spending money on those things is the best idea. I’m just saying I’m surprised I’m not doing the same! In my 20s I really enjoyed shopping things and getting them at a discount. So I assumed in my 30s I would be doing the same, just buying less, but better versions of the same things. Apparently, I’m not just changing how much I buy but also what I consider important enough to spend it on.

This realization is so freeing! It made me realize that not only do I not really need or want those cheaper purses, I also don’t really want the uber expensive one either. Just because you can afford the cheap version of something isn’t an indication of actually valuing the more expensive thing.

Maybe that seems obvious, but it really didn’t to me. And again, this is no judgement on people who love to use their “quality vs quantity” money on bags or shoes or fancy kitchens. Things are great too (again, see expensive soap above)! But knowing that it’s not always about the thing in the first place helps me make better purchasing decisions now.

Minimalist Target Challenge

I just made up this challenge in my head this weekend (I’m trying to look defiant in the photo above, btw). I was thinking about how I need to save money and buy less, but how I also needed to make a trip to Target to get a lamp for my living room. Even though I love me some Target, I’ve been putting off the trip because I know as soon as I walk into the store, I start realizing all the things I “need” or get distracted by a cute bag or decide I must have the newest NYX lip gloss/stick/liquid goop there is.

Target_dollar_spot

I know I’m not alone. It’s scary how easy it is to walk into Target for one or two things and leave with twenty things. So I decided to challenge myself today and only purchase the items that were on my shopping list:

  • Table lamp for living room (must be under $50 including tax)
  • Shampoo
  • Bananas
  • Kind Bars

Yes, it’s a random list, but those are really the items I needed. To some, this challenge might seem easy or silly. I’m sure there are people out there who can resist the siren song of bright, shiny, perfectly-merchandised items, but that’s not me, my friends! Leaving Target with only four items is not something I’ve ever done, but I’m determined to stop buying mindlessly – or at least convincing myself that I need something when I really don’t.

Here’s how today’s trip went down:

Not surprisingly, I was tempted by many things.

Target_beautyaisle

See me pouting over not buying the NYX suede lipstick? I swear the beauty aisles are my Achilles heel. Over the past few months I’ve gotten so good at not buying clothes, but I haven’t worked on minimalizing my makeup collection yet and find it too easy to justify purchasing a lipstick when it’s under $10.

Then there were the super cute Bauble Bar phone cases – with faux marble! Luckily their $30 price tag tempered my desire.

I pretty much love everything that Nate Berkus has designed for Target. Gold vase thing with triangular arms? Uh, yes please!

Did you know Design Love Fest designed paper plates and cups for Target?! I started justifying my need for them as soon as I walked by the display: “These would be so cute for a future party I don’t have planned yet!”

Target_thingsIwant

Ah, the good ol’ book and magazine aisle. What is it about the printed word that calms me down and then makes me want to spend, spend, spend? Target has the newest Kris Carr book. I have all of her other books and love them, so why don’t I buy this one to add to the collection? Plus, it’s all about juicing, which means it’s healthy, which means it’s promoting self-care, which means I should buy it, right?!

Who doesn’t need another fake succulent in their life? This one was in the dangerous Dollar Spot section of the store, which slaps you in the face as soon as you walk into Target. I’m a sucker for all of it.

The Who What Wear collab is killing it these days. I legitimately need more work-appropriate tops, but this navy one had long sleeves, which is too impractical for Atlanta’s spring and summer weather. Plus, I didn’t have clothing on my list.

I’m a sucker for awesomely-branded, all-natural cleaning products. I’ve never heard of Common Good before, but the packaging is so fresh and minimalist and would look so good on my cleaning supply shelves!

So did I do it? Is the suspense killing you 😉 ? Believe it or not, after all those temptations (and there were more than I mentioned in this post), I succeeded. I only bought the four items on my list:

Target_checkout

Bananas, shampoo (all natural and sulfate-free), Kind Bars (dark chocolate sea salt in my favorite), and a French Bulldog table lamp that I already named Frenchie ($34).

It’s amazing how quickly I forgot about all of my non-purchases as soon as I walked out of the Target doors and into the sunlight. NYX lipstick? Didn’t even think about it until I started typing this post. I didn’t think once about the cute Who What Wear blouse while I was planning my outfit for tomorrow. And as much as I love Kris Carr, I don’t regret not buying her book because I still need to get through the recipes in her books that I do own.

I’m fully aware that this is a first world problem and am embarrassed over how much I do fall for great branding and “oh, I should just treat myself” thinking. This challenge is just a baby step towards buying less and living a more minimalist lifestyle. I want to be more disciplined and expand the challenge to other stores I frequent like Trader Joe’s, Walgreens, or heck, even Kroger.

What are your thoughts? Think you’re up for the minimalist Target challenge?

Tip #3 Living with Less

You’re out shopping and you see something that catches your fancy. Even before trying it on, you think, “I must have this thing!”

Now, pause.

Take a hard look at it, that thing you must have. And now imagine it rumpled and crumpled in your laundry basket. Or how about how it will look after a few washes — hanging forlornly in your closet with the hem slightly askew and the color dulled.

Do you still love it? Or was it just the “new car smell” that wooed you?

I know I’m totally guilty of buying into a store’s display. Color-coordinate like items and place it on the rack with room to breathe, paired next to an air plant and a brimmed-hat for “this-could-be-your-lifestyle” inducement. Gets me nearly every time.

Visualize that-thing-you-must-have away from the yummy scented candles of the store, and it gets way easier to put that item down. I know I really want an item if I imagine it a few years old smushed in a Goodwill rack (with that second-hand smell). If I want it after that visualization, it’s usually a keeper.

Have you ever done this — visualizing new clothes worn? Let me know if you have, or if you give it a go!

Pic above is from the Iris Van Herpen exhibit at the High Museum (closes May 15).

Moment of Zen

I think one of the reasons I’m sometimes tempted to buy things is because my brain is going a mile a minute. It wants to be soothed by something/anything! And shopping can seem soothing: you see pretty things you love and you have it within your power to obtain that thing. Such a wonderful, though sadly, temporary feeling.

Well, what if we soothed those feathers in other ways? Usually my other way would be food, but I just cut out my ultimate soothers out of my diet again (I miss you, gluten and sugar!). Maybe this won’t work for everyone, but Cath and I are going to post images every once in a while to soothe your soul, relax your forehead and help you take a deep breath. Tall order for one image, but we’ll try!

The first pic to help us with our moment of zen? A dusky sunset off the coast of Croatia from my trip last summer.

Deep breath in … an outttttt.

One In, One Out

The one in, one out policy is not a new concept for minimalism. I always admired the idea of not increasing the amount of things you own, but didn’t think it was really possible. Now that I’ve minimalized my closet, it’s pretty easy to keep a handle on what I have, what I need, and what I need to get rid of.

So when my beloved Feiyue sneakers bit the dust last month, I replaced them with a shiny new pair of Stan Smiths. I know, I know. Stan Smiths are everywhere and almost passé, but I love the shape and simplicity of the design.

shoes_stan_smiths

Just like my Feiyues, these Stan Smiths are the ultimate weekend shoe. There’s no need to break them in and they’re really comfortable without socks.

So in honor of my first legit one in, one out attempt, here’s a good ol’ fashion outfit post!

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Truly Madly Deeply tank from Urban Outfitters | Baggu tote | Jawbone | Everlane cardi | Old Navy Jeggings | Adidas Stan Smiths

cath-purse-closeup

cath-close-upSimple weekend make-up: Physicians formula tinted moisturizer | NYX brow mascara in Espresso | Milani lipstick in Rose Femme | Tarte blush in Exposed

Tip #2 Living with Less

Tip2

Take a trip to the library! Now, I know that might not sound exciting to all of you (and, full disclosure, I’m the bookiest of book worms), but hear me out.

The library is not just good because you will buy fewer books (keeping a library of just books you absolutely love — not just keeping books that you feel you should read at some point in your life), but also, because it’s like shopping!

No, seriously, it is. Not only do you get to browse a huge selection for hours, you get to “buy” things for free! Sure it’s just a loan, but you still get to take your “purchases” home and curl up in your favorite reading nook and get lost in other worlds.

And these worlds don’t have to be Jane Austen’s or Jame Joyce’s if reading isn’t your thing. Check out the fashion books, art books, interior design books, or hunker down in the library with back issues of Vogue or Real Simple.

Checking out books is also a great way to take potential purchases for a test drive. I checked out Patti Smith’s latest on my Kindle at the beginning of the year and loved it so much, I bought a signed hard copy. It’s one I know I’ll return to again and again.

But sometimes the opposite happens. I found myself in Anthropologie the other weekend (the queen siren of consumption temptation!) and spied the new Audrey Hepburn book, Audrey at Home, and immediately my greedy paws snatched it up. My consumer brain started rationalizing this potential purchase right away: “I love Audrey Hepburn! I’ve read all other biographies on her and this is the latest so yeah! Pictures of Audrey never shared before?! Lemme see! I’m sure I’ll cook her recipes again and again because that lady knows how to eat and how to hide it.”

Luckily my much more reasonable other half (thank you, Matteo!) was standing next to me and gently said, why don’t you read it at the library first and then if you love it, you should definitely get it.

My consumer monster brain wanted me to snatch the book from his hands and scurry to the register in defiance, or at the very least have a good pout. But I couldn’t deny he was right.

A month later, after waiting in a hold queue of Audrey-loving library-goers, I had Audrey at Home in my hands! I read it all cover to cover and then flipped through it again and again to soak up all the new Audreyness. And then … I was done. I didn’t actually need to read it again and even turned it in 11 days early because there were other Audrey/library fans waiting for it just as I had been.

Standing in Anthropologie I could have sworn that I NEEDED to have the book — and I really would have felt convinced of that. In that moment. Having a library to turn to, and giving the idea of that NEED some room to breath (away from the heady scent of Anthro candles), surprisingly saved me from making a purchase I ultimately would have enjoyed a few times and then forgotten about.

Yea or nay? Are you also a library fan?

Living with Less is a Luxury

(Above: our Aunt Nancy, grandfather and Dad in the mid-1940s in Chinatown D.C.)

Having the choice to live with less (paradoxically) is such a generous idea, don’t you think? Choosing to get rid of what you own because you have so much, is a luxury — a generous lifestyle of surplus. Cath and I have been so lucky to have always grown up with enough, and then some.

We’ve never been truly hungry or without basic comforts. And I do see the minimalist movement as something that people like us can easily do because we’ve always had enough and never had to go “without.”

Gratitude for the stuff you already have and love is a huge part to learning to live with less. But there is also gratitude for the whole concept: that we get to have this choice and it’s not one forced upon us by circumstance.

Growing up, Cath and I did not just have enough, we had more than enough. Part of this was because our dad grew up without very much. So not only was our kitchen always stocked with food, we also had an additional closet in our laundry room full of food too. Cath and I jokingly called our family’s linen closet a mini pharmacy because growing up, our dad would stockpile soap and toilet paper and shampoo whenever it was on super sale. When I was little, I remember being so confused when I was at a friend’s house and they ran out of paper towels — how was that possible? Where was their extra closet of back-up supplies?

Diddy1(Above: A family friend, our Dad doing his best Robert De Niro and our Aunt Nancy)

Our dad grew up in a small one bedroom apartment with his parents and five siblings in DC’s Chinatown. He’s never mentioned not having much, but we know he didn’t. And as we got older, Cath and I realized part of the reason why we had these extra reserves around the house was a direct result of not always having enough.

It’s so easy to get caught up in the current minimalist trend — capsule wardrobes, nothing superfluous, etc. —  but I think it’s always nice to be able to put lifestyle pursuits in perspective and realize how lucky we are to feel the freedom to live with less.

So whenever I’m bemoaning the fact that my closet isn’t perfectly monochromatic or my kitchen utensil drawer would make Marie Kondo blush, I remind myself how ridiculously lucky I am to make these choices. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

A Mini Spring Closet Clean-out

For the past few weeks I’ve noticed that there are a handful of items I no longer wear in my closet. After my thorough KonMari-ing and inventory-keeping, it’s become easier to see which items aren’t making the cut (items I only reach for when I haven’t done laundry in a while). It only took a few minutes to clean out the following:

springcleaningwardrobe

1 workout tank that I’ve worn for the past 7 years. It’s gotten so stretched out that I have to wear a sports bra underneath even though it comes with a built-in bra.

1 pair of my (beloved) Frye boots. I’ve had these boots for years and years and I’ve gotten them re-soled a number of times, but now they’re just looking so tired that I can’t wear them to work anymore. Years of wear and tear has turned them into the leather boot equivalent of Uggs.

1 pair of Feiyues sneakers. Love these! I got them a long time ago when we hosted a Feiyue giveaway on this blog and fell in love with their shape (molded to the foot) and comfort. They’ve held up after a few washes, but the inside soles keep rolling up and no matter how much glue I use, they refuse to stay in place.

2 black shirts. Both have some sort of embellishment (one has a sheer back, the other has zips on the side), but I rarely wear them because I have so. many. other. black. tops.

1 Topshop ring – it was a favorite last year. I still love the style, but the metal is changing colors and the plastic gem is super cloudy – it was around $15 so no surprise there. I almost kept it, but wearing a ring that is obviously cheap makes me feel like I’m not winning at the whole adulting thing.

4 necklaces that I think are fantastic but never wear.

3 bracelets – they came in a set of four and I only wear one at a time.

1 Zara bag that Lar gave me last year. She used it for a few years and then I wore it to death. It was an awesome bag, but it started to fray around the handles. Once again, frayed purse handles = not adulting.

jewelryboard

Now that my jewelry board is so empty (my sad 5-year-old DIY tissue paper tassels had to go), I need to rethink my jewelry storage set up. Any suggestions?

This clean out also gives me the chance to see what I need for the spring:

1-2 work-appropriate skirt(s).

3 work-appropriate blouses that are not dry clean only.

1 nice gold ring in a modern shape (it might take me some time to save up for this one).

I’m not going to lie, I’m pretty pumped about buying some new clothes. Shhhhh, don’t tell anyone!

Everything I’ve Bought so far in 2016

Okay, 13 things. That’s not horrible in 2.5 months, right? And technically it’s 18 things (when I was snapping away, I forgot about my oil diffuser and four cloth napkins). Still, not an insignificant number if you are trying to live with less.

But that’s okay. Cath and I have not considered ourselves minimalists in any strict sense. That’s why we are learning to live with less. Living with less isn’t a fixed goal. I don’t think once I own only 200 items, I’ll be complete! Or once I stop buying things, I’ll have reached an inner contentment (oh, if only it were so easy). It’s learning how little I can live with without feeling too restricted. And I honestly think that is different for everybody and will change for you depending on where you’re at in the rollercoaster of life.

I started getting rid of stuff five years ago right before I moved overseas. I got rid of a lot so that I could move to Edinburgh with just two wheelie suitcases in tow. At the time it felt liberating!

And then, a few months after wearing the same staples in my wardrobe again and again, I lost my mojo.

I currently have a very small closet (compared to my pre-Scotland days) but it took me a few years to figure out how to create a small closet/wardrobe that I love and don’t feel restricted by.

So don’t feel discouraged if you take three steps forward and two steps back when you’re learning to live with less. You will buy new stuff and possibly regret getting rid of certain things, but overall, learning about what you really love and need is the joyful part of this process.

And even the process won’t stay the same for you. What you love and need will change with your life. That might sound obvious, but I definitely didn’t get that when I first started getting rid of things.

After getting rid of things five years ago, I really thought “okay, now I won’t ever have to worry about shopping again — I’ll just replace what I have once pieces get too worn.” But my style has changed and so have my editing abilities. Give yourself some breathing room as you learn and as external changes happen in your life.

The same goes with KonMari-ing. When I KonMaried my flat in Edinburgh, the method worked perfectly for me and for the next year that I lived in that flat. Once we moved back to the States, methods that worked in my old flat didn’t translate as well here — so I’m still figuring that out.

And “figuring stuff out” is all part of it. So enjoy the process and don’t worry if you feel like you aren’t always adhering to your rules (or Marie Kondo’s rules) perfectly. Being too restrictive or hard on yourself will make any process unsustainable. Learning to live with less is all about what works best for you, while helping sustain our beautiful wee place in the universe.

Thank you, gray sweatshirt!

Guess what? One of my all time favorite clothing items is gray. Shocker, I know – especially if you saw my ideal closet post and that whole post about my favorite gray shirt. Gray might as well be my favorite color – and black.

I purchased this Funktional sweatshirt years ago hoping it would up my cool factor – you know, that whole boxy/structured/minimalist look. Turns out, I’m not cool enough to achieve that look, but I wear the sweatshirt all the time anyways because it’s so warm (I always packed it when I was visiting Lar in Scotland). It’s also structured enough that I can get away with wearing it to work in the winter.

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I love how roomy it is and it’s the perfect length. Am I wearing jeggings? Stretchy pants? Real jeans? You can’t tell because the sweatshirt more than covers the waist and hip area. #winning

The fabric is more neoprene-y than sweatshirt-y, which is why it keeps its shape even after a number of washes. I wish all of my winter clothes were made of this material. I would walk around in my boxy, structured, yet comfy outfits all day long.